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British actor James Stephenson (center) makes quite a different hero in CALLING PHILO VANCE, a modernized remake of THE KENNEL MURDER CASE.


Drummond series) also gets a meaty role as the owner of the horse Garden fell off. Additional suspicion wavers around Kent Smith (CAT PEOPLE), Frieda Inescort (THE RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE), Henry B. Walthall (LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT) and Charles Trowbridge (VALLEY OF THE ZOMBIES). William Clemens’ CALLING PHILO VANCE, made at Warners, is an attempt to reboot the char- acter for a new decade. A remake of THE KENNEL MURDER CASE, it drops the dog-breeding/Chinese antique collecting macguffins in favor of spies try- ing to get hold of warplane designs. British James Stephenson is an entirely new Vance—a two-fisted, secret service agent given to disguises (his Austrian peasant act is ruined because a little boy rats him out by refusing to pretend he’s his father) and hairs- breadth escapes. Markham (ALIAS NICK BEAL’s Henry O’Neill) is his M-like boss, who disavows him when he’s caught by the Axis. Heath becomes irrev- erent sidekick Ryan (Edward Brophy, who did simi-


house where everyone has cause to kill him. A typi- cal Wright puzzle involves mistaken identity and a switch of culprits and victims. The climax finds a supposedly hypnotised Vance walking on the ledge of a high building in a manner that screenwriter Bertram Millhauser would recycle for the Rathbone- Holmes film THE WOMAN IN GREEN (1945). Jessie Relph (MARK OF THE VAMPIRE) is splendidly ven- omous as a spectacularly hateful bedridden matri- arch, but H.B. Warner (a regular in the Bulldog


lar duties for the Falcon), who whistles the “Blue Danube” to remind Vance of his Vienna humilia- tion. Like all the films in this set, it opens with pic- ture introductions to the cast and characters, but this must have seemed a retro touch in 1940, and a


noirish, haunted-by-the-upcoming-war feel casts shadows over the familiar puzzle of who killed Ar-


cher Coe (THE WALKING DEAD’s Richard Kipling). While the mood is changed, Vance tries to lighten things up by carrying his scottie dog McTavish while sleuthing (the animal is bludgeoned but not killed) and there’s a hold-over from the original novels in Vance’s use of a crime scene map to illustrate his explanation. Margot Stevenson does heroine duties, Jimmy Conlon plays Doremus (he’s also a coroner


in the Torchy Blane series) and the there are sup- porting turns from Creighton Hale (THE CAT AND THE CANARY), Donald Douglas (DEAD MEN TELL), Sheila Bromley (TORTURE SHIP), Ralph Forbes (wicked Sir Hugo in the 1939 HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES), Harry Strang (THE GHOST WALKS), Bo Ling (as a Chinese maid spying for Japan) and the always-untrustworthy Martin Kosleck (HOUSE OF HORRORS).


The Warner Archive Collection presents these academy frame B&W films pretty well—there’s some print damage, but the contrast is sharp. The only extras are trailers for THE CASINO MURDER CASE, THE GARDEN MURDER CASE and CALLING PHILO VANCE.


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